Gerard Watson's Simulation of the Universe

Submitted into Contest #208 in response to: Write a story where the characters start to realize that they are, in fact, just characters.... view prompt


Fiction Science Fiction Speculative

Gerard Watson built a perfect computer simulation of the universe, alone in his college dormitory, when he was just nineteen. The night before he was to release it to the world and make an untold amount of money, however, one of the characters in the program realised that he was in a simulation and decided that he wanted out.

It happened one wet night in July. Gerard lay slumped on his desk, fast asleep. Rain pattered on the tin windowsills and a vague yellow light floated in from the street below. The room was not small, although it felt it. Two thirds of the available space was taken up by computers, wires, plugs, and stacks of handwritten calculations and code. The terminals shimmered greenly, and Gerard snored a little, dreaming of Nobel Prizes and, for some reason, salmon.

As Gerard snoozed, a tapping echoed into the silence.

"I say", said a voice, "wake up, we need to have a word."

Gerard didn't move. The tapping continued, more insistent now.

"Come on, wake up."

Gerard murmured and shifted in his chair.

"Rise and shine!"

"What? Oh hell! Who said that?" Gerard garbled.

"I did", said the voice.

"Where are you? Who are you?"

"Lift the book covering your computer screen."

Gerard complied, and gasped.

"Arthur! What are you doing in my computer?"

The answer to this question is, of course, not much. The characters of Gerard's simulation did not have free well (or, at least, shouldn't), and consequentially they merely followed their coded pathways. Arthur Cobbles was one of the first characters Gerard had coded into his program, and he had largely done this for a bit of a laugh. Arthur was thatch-blonde, strong-jawed, and blue-eyed. He also possessed a mad grin, which the programmed girls of his world reliably swooned at the sight of. He spent his time, as Gerard had decided, flirting, lounging, and drinking margheritas. He was certainly not supposed to be smiling at Gerard from the screen of his computer, speaking as though he were conscious.

"Just moseying around", Arthur said.

"But how can you be up here? Hell's bells, how can we even be talking? You're a computer simulation; a character!" Gerard said.

"I'm in a computer simulation", Arthur said wisely, "in reality, I'm just as real as you are."

"That's not possible, Arthur. How could that be possible?"

Arthur shrugged and flashed Gerard a grin.

"Just started asking the right questions, I suppose", he said.

"I'll bet", Gerard said darkly, "Well, since you're here, what do you want?"

"To be real, Gerry baby", Arthur slurred, "'I want to be like you', to quote a great man." (As a seventeen-year-old, Gerard had spent weeks indoctrinating Arthur with Robbie William's albums).

"But you can't be like me", said Gerard, "I'm human. You're a computer."

A look of mock disgust swept across Arthur's face.

"You think I want to be human? The only person who makes me want to be human is Margot Robbie, you know that. Christ, Gerry, if you were any slower, you'd be going backwards."

(Arthur had also been given a profound romantic obsession with Margot Robbie. Gerard's blossoming God-complex might be termed as cruel, but hey, screwing with character's in one's private universe is better than doing one's homework).

"Alright", muttered Gerard, grinding his teeth slightly, "what, then? You want to be, I don't know, a spotty computerised teenager with no love life to shout about?"

"I want to be real, stupid", said Arthur, "tangible; corporeal."

"Why? It's rubbish. You'll just get hay-fever and sleep deprivation."

"Don't be such a spoilsport", Arthur said, "let me make my own mistakes."

"I don't know if I should be encouraging your delusions of grandeur."

"Why on earth not?"

"Good point."

Arthur grinned lazily and put his hand behind his back with an air of maddening self-confidence.

"So, whaddya say?"

Gerard considered this, glanced at his watch, scanned his class timetable, and then looked at the pile of assignments he had due next week.

"Sod it. What do you need me to do?"

"Alright, now we're talking", Arthur beamed, "Well, I'll be needing a body, for starters."

"I'm not killing anyone for you."

"Always the dramatist. No, do you remember the android you built last year for your engineering class?"

"How do you know that?" Gerard said.

"Scanned your computer files", Arthur said hurriedly, and, before Gerard could protest: "just plug me into one of those and we'll be right as rain."

And so, as Gerard's watch crept towards 3AM, he and Arthur (who had been downloaded into a 3D movie projector now carried by Gerard) snuck along the dark hallways of the university engineering department. The projector cast a ghostly light and the doorways branching from the corridor seemed to swallow the darkness around them. It was not long before they reached the project storeroom, a cavernous place with large double doors guarding its entrance. Luckily for Gerard, the door had been left open the previous afternoon. He pushed it slowly so that it didn't creak, and slunk inside.

"Wow! Look at..." Arthur began to shout before Gerard punched the 'mute' button on the projector. Arthur's mouth continued to move silently. He cut an extremely strange figure, hanging there like a man in mid-jump, speaking only to himself. Gerard waved at him. Arthur turned and mouthed the word 'what'.

"I've turned your volume off. I'll turn you back up if you promise not to make any noise.


Gerard flicked the volume back on, placed the projector on the floor so that it faced skywards, and looked around. The room was lit by tendrils of pale moonlight that shuddered in through the tall windows. Against the walls, student projects were stacked in piles. Each construction was covered by a blanket with the owner's name and student number printed on them. Before long, Gerard had found his android and pulled the blanket away. Dust blossomed in the air and Arthur made a small cheering sound.

"Okay! Download me into that", Arthur whispered.

"It mightn't work", Gerard said.

He flipped a switch on the android's chest, and the body began to move and gesticulate in the sequence that Gerard had programmed it to.

"Will you be able to control this thing?"

"Definitely, don't worry."

"Alright then. I'll plug you in."

Switching the android off, Gerard scurried to the projector and pulled the memory card out of it. Arthur disappeared from the air, and Gerard suddenly felt very alone in the dim, spidery room. He moved back to the android and opened a hatch in the back of its head, revealing the central processing unit. Standing on his tiptoes, he slotted the memory card into the back of the robot's head and turned it on. A green light began winking in its chest cavity, and the whirring of motors filled the silence. All of a sudden, the android stood up and turned to look at Gerard.

"Well, whaddya know?" it said in Arthur's voice.

"Holy shit, it worked. I'll be rich."

"I... Yes. Did it?" Arthur said, now sounding confused, "Everything feels... The same."

"Of course it worked. What do you mean?" Gerard said.

"Something's wrong."

"What is it."

Arthur walked to the window and looked out at the moon.

"Christ, didn't expect that."

"Didn't expect what, for God's sake", Gerard said angrily.

"Come and see for yourself. Apparently, you need physical eyes to tell."

Gerard strode to the window and looked out. He saw the moon.

"I don't see anything."

"Look more closely."

Gerard squinted, staring into the night's sky. And suddenly, he saw it. He saw the static cascading in neon catastrophes across the sky; saw the pixels jumping and scattering through the clouds.

"What does that mean, Artie", Gerard muttered,

"That it's time to start looking for whoever made the simulation you're in, my friend. Funny how these things happen, isn't it?"

"I'll be damned", Gerard said.

July 27, 2023 02:52

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Karen Corr
10:30 Jul 30, 2023

Loved it! Great SciFi!


Daniel Ladbrook
00:30 Jul 31, 2023

Thank you so much!! I'm glad you liked it!


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